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My Cloud Learning Journey: Part 8 "The Big Picture"

HaleyC

 

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Guest Post by Tim Clayton, Marketing Business Services

“Sorry if I am not getting to the end of all these explanations. My mind is over-active and I start working on all different parallels,” says Paul Teich about half way through our chat. He isn’t wrong; I am furiously taking notes but half of them seem to stop in the middle and lead on to something seemingly unconnected. I get to the end of our hour-long conversation and look at this mess I have scrawled on my papers—and it suddenly just makes sense.

The way Paul thinks and talks is a wonderful indication of what he does. Working for consulting firm TIRIAS Research, Paul’s job is to look at masses of data and hardware from the edge—like phones and social media—then follow all the data down to the cloud to create an end result that forms a picture which he can then use to help guide companies to create better hardware. 

I look at the papers in front of me and it is exactly the same: masses of seemingly unrelated information that comes together to tell a nice, neat story about the way humans and computers interact.

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By the time I chat with Paul, I’m already a long way into my cloud learning journey but I’ve been told that he is the man that I need to talk to if I want the inside track on what comes next. This is where we end our series, with our eyes set firmly on the future.

Referred to (sometimes jokingly, often seriously) as a ‘Corporate Futurist’, ‘Grand Vizier’, and ‘Future Visionary’, Paul has a good sense of humor about his role as an analyst but he is the kind of guy whose opinions should be taken seriously. For example, in 2004 Paul wrote a future scenario for his employer at the time (AMD) called “The Army of Darkness”[1] that predicted that the smartphone would mean the death knell of the PC as we know it. He gave timescales that people laughed off at the time but he was so on point that even the biggest nay-sayers cannot argue with the outcome. “I put that one down as a win,” he says with a modest laugh.

When we talk about the present and the future of cloud, the picture that Paul sketches for me is one about technology, but it is the human element that is so interesting. Here are four points of interest about people and their interactions with technology, pieced together from the parallel strands of my conversation with a very smart man.


 

  1. People need the cloud more than they know

Most people do not realize how much of their life is already in the cloud. Even those who naively claim not to trust or use cloud solutions are already doing so a great deal of the time. Every time they click on a mobile phone app, every video they watch on the web, every transaction through online shopping sites, and each interaction on social media, is utilizing a cloud of some sort.

What people really don’t comprehend is the importance of technology in their lives—even that which they claim not to trust. Some is essential for our daily lives, some is even critical to keep us alive.

In London the blackouts of World War II caused an additional 600 deaths a month before a bomb was even dropped, as road accidents and other incidents caused by the pitch blackness shot up and emergency response was fatally impeded. The same is true of the Internet. As Paul says, “if the communications tool we know as the Internet goes down, people will lose their lives. We rely on it for so much more than we think and many emergency services utilize it as the platform for their communications. If the net went dark, it would be critical to human life; we are already that dependent on it.”

Cloud is not there yet, but its importance is growing exponentially and the repercussions of failures are also wide-ranging and severe. It is not just Netflix and Twitter that we would lose; many businesses would have to revert to technology they ditched long ago if an organization like Google lost the cloud. It would take years to recover.

However, the idea of “losing the cloud” is a purely hypothetical, as each service has its own independent environment. We could lose Facebook for a day, but to lose more than one of the major services for any significant time would require an organized attack of unfathomable scale and complexity.

  1. People can be a little slow—and very predictable

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses,” Paul says as he quotes Henry Ford. One key aspect of TIRIAS’s work is to tell companies that they need to stop listening to what their customers want and start giving them what they need.

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A large challenge for Paul is not only to convince people of how much their lives are already in the cloud, but also to urge them to react to such trends. This may seem obvious but it is not natural for us as individuals, and is even more difficult for groups of people. If we scale this up to the level of governments and corporations, resistance to change can be even greater.

There is a genuine fear of what people perceive to be social disruption. There will come a point in time when cloud technologies and machine learning capabilities will mean that much of the work humans do will become automated and outsourced to the cloud. As a race we have a very visceral fear of the Brave New World, but it is also important to remember that such disruption is really a byproduct of overall improvements to our lives. We fear the unknown even if it is in our best interests.

Perhaps the problem is that most people are not yet aware of how predictable we are, and how precisely machines can analyze our aggregate behavior and help find better solutions. We may feel that we are somehow kooky and unpredictable as individuals, but our patterns are extremely uniform when viewed from any real distance. That is what allows systems of learning to work out what we need—even if we may be a little delayed in coming to the point where we actually want it.

  1. People change

The ability to accept the advantages of intelligent systems may, of course, be generational. Paul and myself both experienced that change in IT where we were suddenly able to take ownership of our compute. The PC (in my case an Acorn Electron) took the need for a mainframe away from the user and allowed people to own their IT capabilities. Everything we required was in a box in the home.

Paul may be a little older than me but he has embraced the next evolution much more than I have. This means no longer having the computing power in your box at home; instead we use devices as gateways to an infinitely more powerful compute stored in clouds outside. This is the millennial mindset. I, on the other hand, am of the generation that still needs to own things, be it paperback books, DVDs, greeting cards, or the vinyl records that Paul and I both still hold on to. The younger generation doesn’t see the need for all of these material artifacts; they prefer to move them to the cloud where they can be used and enjoyed at a lower cost and on demand.

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“Won’t they miss that feeling of pulling the vinyl out of the sleeve, cleaning the record, and dropping the needle?” I asked.

“People don’t miss what they never knew,” was his simple reply. “Future generations will not have nostalgia for what they have not experienced, especially when they hear about how impractical and laborious these things were. They will no longer feel that need to own content, they will be much too busy enjoying it.”

  1. Humans have already written their own future

I couldn’t let Paul go without a couple of bold predictions about the state of cloud ten years from now.

In his opinion, our life a decade from now has mostly already been written—both the computer code and the narrative. It will seem very familiar to most of us, as we have seen a lot of the improvements to our lives in sci-fi movies from long ago.

As A.I. becomes more refined and learns more, there will come a point where computers will be able to pass any Turing Test and will interact with us on a very human level. However, this does not mean that we will have the kind of artificial intelligence of an Asimov novel, with semi-sentient robots walking among us. The power and computing demands are simply too great for us to create remote and independent A.I. devices of such complexity in that short a time period.

A.I. will instead surround us in ways that are not only smart but positively brilliant. Our buildings will begin to interact with us in much the way a ship’s on-board computer in a sci-fi movie does. The spaces we use will learn from our movements and behavior and will adapt to meet our needs. We will be able to hold remarkably human conversations and enjoy personalized interactions not only with our portable devices but with the physical elements around us.

The future of the world is thousands of tiny fragments of information, all of them unconnected and out of context. Each one is a grain of truth, a piece of data hurriedly scrawled down and relating to a single human being. Every fragment is either a random act or a part of a regular pattern. As the patterns appear, each human takes shape in the ‘mind’ of the machine. Each person is understood individually, every one totally unique yet utterly predictable. The lens then pans out and each of these humans becomes another fragment of data within the billions of people that make up our race. Then the whole picture reveals itself.

[1] Presented to TMAG http://www.iprcorp.com/technology-market-analysis-group-tmag/ and the slide deck is referenced on Paul’s LinkedIn page

About the Author

HaleyC

I manage the HPE Helion social media brand accounts promoting the enterprise cloud solutions at HPE for hybrid, public, and private clouds.I have put my toes in the ocean of cloud evangelism for the enterprise IT industry. But my expertise is in Social Media and Digital Marketing.

Comments
Ramkumar Devanathan

Haley this is an excellent blog series - please carry on the great work explaining about cloud in its various dimensions.

Would be great if you can add a track back to the past articles.

- RamD

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